Closing The Gap

Report: Women need to get one more degree than men to earn the same salary

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Women earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. Over a career, that adds up: The lifetime earnings differential between men and women is more than $1 million.

That's according to a 2018 wage gap report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report also concluded that there is a way, though time-consuming and oftentimes expensive, for women to earn about the same amount as their male colleagues: Get one more degree.

"A woman with a bachelor's degree earns $61,000 per year on average, roughly equivalent to that of a man with an associate's degree," the Georgetown CEW reports. "The same rule holds true for women with master's degrees compared to men with bachelor's degrees and for each successive level of educational attainment."

Here's the breakdown of men and women's earnings at every level of education, created by the Georgetown CEW. Click on the chart to enlarge.

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Women Can't Win: Despite Making Educational Gains and Pursuing High-Wage Majors, Women Still Earn Less than Men, 2018.

As the chart shows, even a higher level of education doesn't guarantee equal pay: Women with a master's degree or higher earn $83,000 a year, which is close to (but still lower than) the $87,000 men with a bachelor's degree earn.

More and more women are relying on education to help close the gender gap, the report points out: "Women now outnumber men on every rung of the higher education ladder," and "roughly 3 million more women are currently enrolled in postsecondary education than men."

While educational gains have narrowed the wage gap slightly — by about 7 percent, the report finds — a significant gap persists, and it only increases with age:

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Women Can't Win: Despite Making Educational Gains and Pursuing High-Wage Majors, Women Still Earn Less than Men, 2018.

To help narrow the gap, there are a few things women can do besides getting another degree, the report notes. For starters, pick a college major that pay well: "Women majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields earn $840,000 more from the base year to retirement than women who major in the liberal arts, regardless of the occupations they choose."

And when you land your first job, negotiate your starting pay well: "The first salary is a very important leverage point for upward mobility and can result in a slower trajectory if women aim lower to begin with."

If you're well past day one on the job and think you're being paid less than you should be, you can still negotiate for the salary you deserve. First, do your research and understand what a fair salary might look like. A salary calculator can help you gauge your market value.

Before initiating a conversation with your manager, document a list of achievements, such as new projects you've taken on or any measurable goals you've achieved since you started.

Read up on more expert-vetted negotiation strategies and remember: Although only half of job seekers negotiate, the vast majority of those who try it succeed.

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